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George Washington Masonic National Memorial

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1917–1932, Helmle and Corbett. 101 Calahan Dr.
  • George Washington Masonic National Memorial
  • George Washington Masonic National Memorial
  • George Washington Masonic National Memorial
  • George Washington Masonic National Memorial

The memorial, looming over the town, is impossible to miss and is perhaps the largest example of architectural kitsch in the United States. It was the work of the well-known New York firm that later participated in the design of Rockefeller Center. Helmle chose as his model one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the lighthouse of c. 280 B.C. which stood in the harbor at Alexandria, Egypt. Reconstructions of the Alexandria Lighthouse were a common feature of Beaux-Arts programs, and both Frank J. Helmle, the initial designer, and Harvey Wiley Corbett, who took over c. 1920, were products of the Ecole. The original design of 1917 was modified in 1920 by the addition of the pyramidal crest. Symbolically, the ancient model links Washington, a Mason, not only to the founding of the country but also to the cradle of civilization and suggests a guiding light into the future. Construction began in 1922, and the building was dedicated in 1932, even though many features were incomplete (elevators were not installed until 1947). The grounds were landscaped by Carl R. Parker of Olmsted Brothers. The interior is well worth a visit; the vast entrance or memorial hall has murals by Allyn Cox (1955, 1957) and a statue, by Bryant Baker, of Washington wearing a Masonic apron. Other spaces, such as the auditorium and the various meeting rooms, display elements of Masonic and architectural exotica and should not be missed.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Richard Guy Wilson et al.
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Citation

Richard Guy Wilson et al., "George Washington Masonic National Memorial", [Alexandria, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VA-01-AL50.

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